Natural remedies for bulimia nervosa

Naomi Carr
Author: Naomi Carr Medical Reviewer: Morgan Blair Last updated:

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by purging that can lead to several physical health complications if left untreated. Treatment for bulimia can include therapeutic interventions, medications, and natural remedies.

How to treat bulimia naturally

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that commonly causes episodes of binge eating, or consuming excessive amounts of food in a short period of time, followed by purging behaviors, or compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, or excessive exercise.

Professional help is often required to safely manage bulimia and prevent severe consequences of the condition. However, there are several techniques and natural remedies that may be useful alongside treatment. Natural remedies can improve mental and physical wellbeing, thereby reducing symptoms and improve the recovery process [1].

Nutritional planning

People with bulimia have difficulty controlling impulses related to binge eating episodes.  Nutritional planning can help reduce urges to binge by having scheduled mealtimes for the day ahead. Eating regular meals and snacks can help reduce hunger or cravings that may prompt binge episodes.

It can be useful to learn more about the body and its nutritional requirements, including what is needed for proper functioning and the consequences of malnutrition. Planning well-rounded meals will help satiate hunger, reduce the risk of overeating or skipping meals, and alleviate anxieties around eating habits. [1][2][3]

Balanced diet

Maintaining an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals can help to reduce hunger and cravings that may be common in those with bulimia. [4]

Similarly, different types of food can have various positive effects on physical and mental wellbeing, which can help to improve the symptoms of bulimia, such as fatigue and low mood or anxiety [5].

Vitamins and minerals that could help improve symptoms of bulimia include [4][5][6]:

  • Omega 3: Found in fish, nuts, seeds, and plant oils. Can help to reduce symptoms of depression and increase cognitive function.
  • Folate: Found in green vegetables and leaves, such as broccoli and spinach. Can help to reduce symptoms of depression and improve physical health and strength.
  • Cobalamin (B12): Found in fish, eggs, chicken, dairy products, and mushrooms. Can improve mental health and reduce fatigue.
  • Zinc: Found in red meat, poultry, nuts, and grains. Can reduce symptoms of depression and improve the immune system.
  • Vitamin C: Found in citrus fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes. Can improve healing and immunity, as well as improving appetite and digestion.
  • Iron: Found in green vegetables, particularly broccoli and spinach, oats, grains, and nuts. Can reduce fatigue, increase energy, improve sleep, increase concentration, and improve immunity and healing.


Although mindfulness on its own will not cure or treat bulimia, utilizing mindfulness techniques can help to reduce mental distress associated with the condition, potentially helping to manage symptoms.

Meditation and yoga are two commonly practiced mindfulness techniques that have been found to reduce emotional distress, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression, which may be common in those with bulimia. Studies have also found that these techniques can improve feelings and attitudes around body image and self-esteem, thereby potentially helping to improve symptoms of bulimia [7][8].

Utilizing mindfulness techniques while eating can also help to reduce impulsive or harmful eating behaviors, potentially reducing binge episodes and increasing feelings of control around eating habits [1][7].

Herbal remedies

Herbal remedies, also known as adaptogens, are supplements made from plants that have been adapted to help improve mental and physical health. It is important to always consult with your doctor before taking herbal remedies, particularly if you take a prescribed medication, as people may react differently, and they may cause adverse effects [9].

Adaptogens that may be useful in reducing certain symptoms of bulimia include [9][10]:

  • Aloe vera: Can help to reduce stomach problems, while improving the absorption of nutrients.
  • Ginseng: Can help to reduce stress levels, improve bodily functions, improve sleep, and improve concentration.
  • Reishi: Can help to reduce stress, boost the immune system, and reduce fatigue.
  • Astragalus: Can help to reduce nausea, reduce fatigue, and boost the immune system.
  • Rhodiola: Can help to increase concentration and memory, reduce fatigue, and reduce symptoms of depression.


Some studies have demonstrated that acupuncture may be useful in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, so could be a helpful addition to bulimia treatment. Although it will not cure or treat the condition, it may help to reduce emotional distress that is commonly associated with bulimia, potentially improving quality of life [11].

Furthermore, there is some research to suggest that acupuncture could help to reduce symptoms in those with an eating disorder, when utilized alongside a professional treatment plan [12].


Looking after your mental and physical health can be beneficial in reducing the impact of certain symptoms of bulimia. Commonly, those with bulimia experience low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and impairments in social functioning, so it is important to also try to manage these symptoms while treating disordered eating habits.

Self-care techniques that can help those with bulimia cope with emotional distress may include [1][13]:

  • Forming and maintaining a sleep schedule
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Engaging in hobbies
  • Engaging in social activities
  • Spending time outside in nature and fresh air

Similarly, it is important to try and manage physical effects that can occur with bulimia, particularly in those who engage in self-induced vomiting. This includes [1]:

  • Improving hydration by drinking plenty of water
  • Rinsing out the mouth with water after vomiting
  • Waiting an hour after vomiting before tooth brushing

Other treatment options for bulimia

Eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa, typically require professional advice and treatment to ensure the best chance of recovery. Treatment involves multidisciplinary therapeutic interventions and sometimes the use of medication.


Professional treatment for bulimia usually involves the use of one or more specialized types of therapy. They can help the individual explore the underlying causes of their condition, challenge and alter harmful behaviors and attitudes toward food and eating, and learn about nutrition and how to form and maintain healthy eating habits [3][13][14].

Different types of therapy that could be helpful for those with bulimia nervosa include:


For some people with bulimia, medication can be prescribed to help in the recovery process. Antidepressant medications can be helpful in treating bulimia, particularly some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine and sertraline, and some tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), such as imipramine and amitriptyline [1][15].

Medications such as these have been found to be effective at reducing negative emotions that are associated with the development or worsening of bulimia, as well as reducing binge eating episodes and purging behaviors. However, they can also cause unwanted side effects, such as suicidal ideation in young adults and excessive sedation, so are prescribed with caution [15]. You should meet regularly with your mental health care providers while taking medication to monitor its effectiveness and check in about side effects.

  1. National Health Service. (Reviewed 2020). Treatment – Bulimia. NHS. Retrieved from
  2. Institute of Medicine (US) Subcommittee on Interpretation and Uses of Dietary Reference Intakes. (2003). Introduction to Dietary Planning. In Dietary Reference Intakes: Applications in Dietary Planning. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). Retrieved from
  3. National Eating Disorder Association. (n.d). An Introduction to Nutritional Therapy. NEDA. Retrieved from
  4. Tello, M. (2020). Diet and Depression. Harvard Health. Retrieved from
  5. Melanson, K.J. (2007). Nutrition Review: Relationships of Nutrition With Depression and Anxiety. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 1(3), 171-174. Retrieved from
  6. Molendijk, M., Molero, P., Sánchez-Pedreño, F.O., Van der Does, W., & Martínez-González, M.A. (2018). Diet Quality and Depression Risk: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Journal of Affective Disorders, 226, 346-354. Retrieved from
  7. Proulx, K. (2008). Experiences of Women with Bulimia Nervosa in a Mindfulness-Based Eating Disorder Treatment Group. Eating Disorders, 16(1), 52–72. Retrieved from
  8. Karlsen, K.E., Vrabel, K., Bratland-Sanda, S., Ulleberg, P., & Benum, K. (2018). Effect of Yoga in the Treatment of Eating Disorders: A Single-blinded Randomized Controlled Trial with 6-Months Follow-up. International Journal of Yoga, 11(2), 166–169. Retrieved from
  9. Shane-McWhorter, L. (Reviewed 2022). Adaptogens. MSD Manual. Retrieved from
  10. Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 3(1), 188–224. Retrieved from
  11. Sniezek, D.P., & Siddiqui, I.J. (2013). Acupuncture for Treating Anxiety and Depression in Women: A Clinical Systematic Review. Medical acupuncture, 25(3), 164–172. Retrieved from
  12. Fogarty, S., Harris, D., Zaslawski, C., McAinch, A.J., & Stojanovska, L. (2010). Acupuncture as an Adjunct Therapy in the Treatment of Eating Disorders: A Randomised Cross-Over Pilot Study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 18(6), 233–240. Retrieved from
  13. Hay, P.J., & Claudino, A.M. (2010). Bulimia Nervosa. BMJ Clinical Evidence, 2010, 1009. Retrieved from
  14. Kass, A.E., Kolko, R.P., & Wilfley, D.E. (2013). Psychological Treatments for Eating Disorders. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 26(6), 549–555. Retrieved from
  15. Bello, N.T., & Yeomans, B.L. (2018). Safety of Pharmacotherapy Options for Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. Expert Opinion on Drug Safety, 17(1), 17–23. Retrieved from
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Naomi Carr
Author Naomi Carr Writer

Naomi Carr is a writer with a background in English Literature from Oxford Brookes University.

Published: May 16th 2023, Last edited: Sep 22nd 2023

Morgan Blair
Medical Reviewer Morgan Blair MA, LPCC

Morgan Blair is a licensed therapist, writer and medical reviewer, holding a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Northwestern University.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: May 16th 2023